Reviewed – 17th April 2019
“this production leaves its audience invested, breathless and nurturing a small bud of hope”
The dark space of The Bunker Theatre glows dimly as we enter. As our eyes adjust, it’s clear that one wall shimmers with suspended flowers, gradually phasing through colours from chilly blues to glowing pinks. With this, we step into Angelique’s world.
This one-woman show from Harts Theatre Company and Power Play brings us a story that, tragically, is not new. Angelique finds herself all too alone in the world, with her mum incarcerated and her dad (‘the sperm donor’) invisible. We follow her, literally, in this promenade piece, as she struggles to navigate the care system and independent living. This tale could be all too familiar, but Angelique, who shares her name with a type of tulip, wants to be a florist. Her spaces and thoughts brim with flowers, and we find ourselves swept into this world. Through the prism of her floral inner and outer life, her tale takes on new significance.
Funeral Flowers’ immersive success owes a huge debt to dreamy, flower-filled set design of Minglu Wang. The black box of The Bunker takes on astonishing beauty – not for nothing are several florists credited on the programme. These spaces become menacing when the story darkens using clever lighting from James Dawson.
Emma Dennis-Edwards is compelling as our protagonist. The challenge of representing a teenager peeks through at times (especially during the longish opening scene) where her moods and mannerisms can feel affected, even exaggerated. In her more nuanced moments though, she’s riveting to watch – not for nothing does this show carry a warning of triggering scenes of sexual violence. Credit must be given to the production for handling this so sensitively, with warnings in advance via the website and programme, the option of leaving and returning another time proffered and details to survivor support services signposted.
There are moments that don’t hold together as well as Dennis-Edwards’ performance and Rachel Nwokoro’s confident direction. A little audience engagement is fun but its purpose is unclear, and the hurly-burly of fitting the sizeable audience into the confined seating area at the start (an impossible task) means that we begin a good ten minutes late. But these fade away when Dennis-Edwards brings her irrepressible cast of characters to the stage, each one as real as the next. This is especially true of her rendering of Angelique’s sometime boyfriend Ricky. Spoiler alert: Ricky is not a nice man. Dennis-Edwards has the audience reacting with audible gasps at some of his behaviour.
The presence of the flower wall calls to mind the work of artist Anya Gallaccio, who created vast installations of cut flowers which are allowed to gradually die away. As the performance comes to a close, it’s not clear whether Angelique will flourish or herself wither and die. What is clear is that this production leaves its audience invested, breathless and nurturing a small bud of hope.
Reviewed by Abi Davies
Photography by Kofi Dwaah
The Bunker until 4th May
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: